There are some actors you just love to see on screen. Those actors you just know will deliver a great performance, no matter what. Thelma Ritter is one of those people. You see her name in the credits, and you think, fantastic, we’re in good hands! Ritter, like Walter Brennan, Thomas Mitchell or Fay Bainter is one of the great character performers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. But, unlike Brennan, Mitchell or Bainter, Thema Ritter never won an Academy Award. She was nominated 6 (SIX!) times, which makes her one of three women to be nominated, in any category, that many times without a win, along with Deborah Kerr and Amy Adams (all three of them are surpassed by Glenn Close), as well as the most nominated actress in the Supporting category without a win – I love these Oscar tidbits!
Thelma Ritter’s quick wit, delivery, comic timing and heart made her one of the most versatile actresses of her generation. I mean, All About Eve (1950, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Rear Window (1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) AND Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, dir. John Frankenheimer)? Come on! She received her six nominations over the course of twelve years: All About Eve was the first, which she lost to Josephine Hull for Harvey (1950); then came The Mating Season (1951), which she lost to Kim Hunter for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); then, With a Song in My Heart (1952), which I wrote about here. Gloria Grahame took the Oscar for The Bad and The Beautiful (1952); her last nomination in a row was for a movie I adore, Pickup on South Street (1953), which she lost to Donna Reed for From Here To Eternity (1953). A few years later, she was nominated again for Pillow Talk (1959). This time, Shelley Winters won it for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959); her last-ever nomination was for Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and she lost to Patty Duke for The Miracle Worker (1962). Her career lasted decades, across many genres, and despite never winning an Oscar, her movies live on. Also, she’s one of the best people to do an impression of. Try it, it’s really fun!
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